Page images
PDF
EPUB

In order to acquire the proper management of the emphasis, the great rule, and indeed the only rule possible to be given, is, that the speaker or reader study to attain a just conception of the force and spirit of the sentiments which he is to pronounce. For to lay the emphasis with exact propriety, is a constant exercise of good sense and attention. It is far from being an inconsiderable attain. ment. It is one of the greatest trials of a true and just taste ; and must arise from feeling delicately ourselves, and from judging accurately, of what is fittest to strike the feelings of other.

There is one error, against which it is particularly proper to caution the learner; namely, that of multiplying emphatical words too much. It is only by a prudent reserve in the use of them, that we can give them any weight. If they recur too often; if a speaker or reader attempts to render every thing which he expresses of high inportance, by a multitude of strong emphases, we soon learn to

рау little regard to them. To crowd every sentence with emphatical words, is like crowding all the pages of a book with Italic characters, which, as to the effect, is just the same as to use no such distinctions at all.

SECTION 4. Of Pauses. Pauses or rests, in speaking and reading, are a total cessation of the voice, during a perceptible, and, im many cases, a measurable space of time.

Pauses are equally necessary to the speaker, and the hearer. To the speaker, that he may take breath, without which he cannot proceed far in delivery; and that he may, by these temporary rests, relieve the organs of speech, which otherwise would be soon tired by continued action : to the bearer, that the ear also may be relieved from the fatigue, which it would otherwise endure from a continuity of sound, and that the understanding may have sufficient time to mark the distinction of sentences, and their several members.

There are two kinds of pauses: first, emphatical pauses; and next, such as mark the distinctions of the sense, emphatical pause is made, after something has been said of peculiar moment, and on which we desire to fix the

1

An

Such pauses

hearer's attention. Sometimes, before such a thing is said, we usher it in with a pause of this nature. have the same effect as a strong emphasis ; and are subject to the same rules; especially to the caution just now given, of not repeating them too frequently. For as they excite uncommon attention, and of course raise expectation, if the importance of the matter is not fully answerable to such expectation, they occasion disappointment and disgust.

But the most frequent and the principal use of pauses, is, to mark the divisions of the sense, and at the same time to allow the speaker to draw his breath ; and the proper and delicate adjustment of such pauses, is one of the most nice and difficult articles of delivery. In all reading, and public speaking, the management of the breath requires a good deal of care, so as not to oblige us to divide words from one another, which have so intimate a connexion, that they ought to be pronounced with the same breath, and without the least separation. Many sentences are miserably mangled, and the force of the emphasis totally Jost, by the divisions being made in the wrong place. To avoid this, every one, while he is speaking or reading, should be very careful to provide a full supply of breath fer what he is to utter. It is a great mistake to imagine, that the breath must be drawn only at the end of a period, when the voice is ailowed to fall. It may easily be gathered at the intervals of the period, when the voice is only suspended for a moment; and, by this management, one may always have a sufficient stock for carrying on tho longest sentence, without improper interruptions.

Pauses in reading, and public discourse, must be formed upon

the manner in which we utter ourselves in ordinary, sensible conversation ; and not upon the stiff artificial manner which we acquire, from reading books according to the common punctuation. It will by no means be sufficient to attend to the points used in printing ; for these are far from marking all the pauses which ought to be made in speaking. A mechanical attention to these resting-places has perhaps been one cause of monotony, by leading the reader to a similar tone at every stop, and a uniform cadence at every period. The primary use of points is, to assist the reader in discerning the grammatical construc tion ; and it is only as a secondary object, that they regu• late his pronunciation.

To render pauses pleasing and expressive, they must not only be made in the right place, but also accompanied with a proper tone of voice, by which the nature of these pauses is intimated ; much more than by the length of them, which can seldom be exactly measured. Sometimes it is only a slight and simple suspension of voice that is proper; sometimes a degree of cadence in the voice is required ; and sometimes that peculiar tone and cadence which denote the sentence to be finished. In all these cases, we are to regulate ourselves, by attending to the manner in which nature teaches us to speak, when en. gaged in real and earnest discourse with others.

It is a general rule, that the suspending pause should be used when the sense is incomplete ; and the closing pause, when it is finished. But there are phrases, in which, though the sense is not completed, the voice takes the closing, rather than the suspending pause ; and others, in which the sentence finishes by the pause of suspension.

The closing pause must not be confounded with that fall of the voice, or cadence, with which many readers uni. formly finish a sentence. Nothing is more destructive of propriety and energy than this habit. The tones and inHections of the voice at the close of a sentence, ought to be diversified, according to the general nature of the discourse, and the particular construction and meaning of the sentence. In plain narrative, and especially in argumentation, a small attention to the manner in which we relate a fact, or maintain an argument, in conversation: will show, that it is frequently more proper to raise the voice, than to let it fall, at the end of a sentence. Some sentences are so constructed, that the last words require a stronger emphasis than any of the preceding; while others admit of being closed with a soft and gentle sound. Where there is nothing in the sense which requires the last sound to be elevated or emphatical, an easy fall, sufficient to show that the sense is finished, will be proper. And in pathetic pieces, especially those of the plaintive, tender, or solemn kind, the tone of the passion will often require a still greater cadence of the voice. The best method of correcting a uniform cadence, is frequently to read select sentences, in which the style is pointed, and in which antitheses are frequently introduced: and argu

T

mentative pieces, or such as abound with interrogatives, or earnest exclamation.

Section 5. Of Tones. Tones are different both from emphasis and pauses; consisting in the modulation of the voice, the notes or variations of sound which we employ in the expression of our sentiments.

Emphasis affects particular words and phrases with a degree of tone or inflection of the voice ; but tones, peculiarly so called, affect sentences, paragraphs, and some. times even the whole of a discourse.

To show the use and necessity of tones, we need only observe, that the mind, in communicating its ideas, is in a continual state of activity, emotion, or agitation, from the different effects which those ideas produce in the speaker. Now the end of such communication being, not merely to lay open the ideas, but also the different feelings which they excite in him who utters them, there must be other signs than words, to manifest those feel. jngs ; as words uttered in a monotonous manner, can represent only a similar state of mind, perfectly free from all activity or emotion. As the communication of these internal feelings, was of much more consequence in our social intercourse, than the mere conveyance of ideas, The Author of our being did not, as in that conveyance, leave the invention of the language of emotion, to man; but impressed it himself upon our nature in the same snanner as he has done with regard to the rest of the animal world; all of which express their various feelings, by various tones. Ours indeed, from the superior rank that we hold, are in a high degree more comprehensive; as there is not an act of the mind, an exertion of the fancy, or an emotion of the heart, which has not its peculiar tone, or note of the voice, by which it is to be expressed; and which is suited exactly to the degree of internal feeling. It is chiefly in the proper use of these tones, that the life, spirit, beauty, and harmony of delivery consist.

An extract from the beautiful lamentation of David over Laul and Jonathan, may serve as an example of what has

[ocr errors]

been said on this subject. “ The beauty of Israel is slain upon thy high places. How are the mighty fallen! Tell it not in Gath ; publish it not in the streets of Askelon: lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice ; lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. Ye mountains of Gilboa, let there be no dew, nor rain upon you, nor fields of offerings ; for there the shield of the mighty was vilely cast away; the shield of Saul, as though he had Dot been anointed with oil !” The first of these divisions expresses sorrow and lamentation; therefore the note is low. The next contains a spirited command, and should be pronounced much higher. The other sentence, in which he makes a pathetic address to the mountains where his friends were siain, must be expressed in a note quite different from the two former; not so low as the first, nor so high as the second, in a manly, firm, and yet plaintive tone.

This correct and natural language of the emotions, is not so difficult to be attained, as most readers seen to imagine. If we enter into the spirit of the author's sentiments, as well as into the meaning of his words, we shall not fail to deliver the words in properly varied tones. For there are few people, who speak English without a pro. vincial tone, that have not an accurate use of emphasis, pauses, and tones, when they utter their sentiments in earnest discourse : and the reason that they have not the game use of them, in reading aloud the sentiments of others, may be traced to the very defective and errone. ous method, in which the art of reading is taught; whereby all the various, natural, expressive tones of speech, are suppressed, and a few artificial, unmeaning, reading Botes, are substituted for them.

But when we recommend to readers an attention to the tone and language of emotions, we must be understood to do it with proper limitation. Moderation is necessary in this point, as it is in other things. For when reading becomes strictly imitative, it assumes a theatrical manner, and must be highly improper, as well as give offence to ihe hearers; because it is inconsistent with that delicacy and modesty, which, on all occasions, are indispensable

Herries.

« PreviousContinue »